Forum Archive Index - February 2002
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[sharechat] LTI 'Out West' with the NZSE (4)- Bendon Buyout
In late 2001, managing director of the Bendon Group, Hugo Venter, in
association with significant stakeholder AMP made a takeover offer
for Bendon Group with an interesting twist. Rather than offer to buy
the company, they offered to buy the whole clothing business off
Bendon at a price less than the shares were trading on the market
before the bid. Other big shareholders, such as Tower Corporation saw
the bid as rather cheeky and opportunistic. By structuring the bid
this way Venter and AMP could end up with all the business of Bendon
with only 75% shareholder acceptance, not the 90% stipulated in the
takeover code. Then entrepreneur Eric Watson entered the fray with
a rival bid for the company.
The doors of the saloon swung open and a crowd spilled out into the
street. It was the whinnying of horses ,the clap of horse hooves
and the creak of waggon wheels that figuratively lassoed the
townspeople as they swirled into a human fence around the travellers,
who had just pulled up in the main street.
'The Magnificent Seven' as they were known, were respected more for
the magnificence of their dress, rather than any magnificence in
their deeds. They were a group of clothing peddlers that moved from
town to town flogging their wares, which it must be said were some of
the finest in the old west. But 'the Magnificent Seven' were a
street savvy bunch too, who earned as much apprehension as respect
from their customers.
Sitting atop the waggon holding the reins was Hugo 'Quickfingers'
Venter. Alongside him was 'Nightmare' Nick Watson and no doubt
somewhere in the back of the waggon were the rest: Nick's wife
Erica, their teenage daughter a shapely little thing who modelled the
women's clothing, known as 'Numbers' (on account of her figure), a
frightening tall stocky bloke who went by the name of 'Towerman',
and the aging but mentally pin sharp partriach of the clan 'Gramps'.
Not aboard the waggon was the last of the seven, one of the most
feared men of the old west, 'Hell' MacPherson. It was Hell that the
rest of the Magnificent Seven had ostensibly arrived in town to
Venter patted the hind-quarters of his favourite heavy horse that had
just pulled the waggon up as he surveyed the crowd that had by now
swelled to a 5 to 6 deep throng around the magnificent seven and
their wares. He smiled. But the crowd kept it's distance because
of a cocktail of emotion: awe mixed with fear! Venter had earned his
nick name 'quickfingers' through doing magicians tricks to entertain
gathered throngs such as this. But the townspeople perceived there
was a grander side to these tricks when things Venter had acquired
simply seemed to vanish. Legend had it, he had made whole factories
disappear! One thing of which there was no doubt was that
Quickfingers, Numbers, Erica and Nick had a certain personal magic
with which they were able to charm the public. Yes, it was commerce
that had brought the Magnificent Seven to town that day, but not
commerce of the usual sort.
'Quickfingers', you see, had spent half a lifetime on the roads under
the pressure of the public gaze. He had started his working life as
a blacksmith, but when that business hit hard times, he moved to the
goldfields. But instead of chasing a fortune from nuggets, he
found a living working with the sluice tailings. He set up a
business called "China Clays". Nevertheless in ceramics it was
difficult to earn pots (sic) of money, and it became an increasingly
hard business in which to 'urn' (sic) a living. One evening the
bankers repossession possie came around. They took everything. The
pioneer cottage was stripped and Venter wasn't even left with the
clothes on his back. Late that night, Venter gazed up at the
stars hoping for a revelation. But slowly the head topping his
mostly naked form sunk downwards in despair, even as his chin pointed
towards his underpants. It was then the revelation came to him.
"I could sell that!"
It had been a long road to clothing magnate stardom, and
the engaging Venter wouldn't be where he was today if it
wasn't for the other six. But Quickfingers Venter now wanted out
of the spotlight. There was the potential dissention in the clan to
consider, that his sudden step back from the limelight would create.
So Venter had come to town to consummate what he had masterminded as
the ultimate 'quick trick'.
Venter had always had a special respect for the old man of the clan
'Gramps', or 'GrAMPs' as he was more commonly addressed, being hard
of hearing. Rather than sell the whole show, which would require the
agreement of 90% of the others, he would simply buy out the clothing
business leaving behind an empty waggon shell! Venter's hands rubbed
together as he contemplated the completeness of his own guile:
showing up in the town with the least restrictions on business in the
New World where he could slide such a deal straight through! He had
taken GrAMPs into his confidence. GrAMPs thought the idea of cutting
Towerman and the Watsons out of the business was great.
Especially so, when a pilot shipment of clothing that had been sent
back to mother England with 'Hell MacPherson' had been so well
received, and future prospects a couple of years out, looked so good.
The strategy was clear. Venter would step back from the limelight,
taking with him the cream of his business, and split the profits only
three ways between GrAMPs, Hell and himself. This town was to be
the last waggon stop for him, and the Towerman and the Watsons would
roll out of town with an empty waggon!
But it was hard to keep secrets on a waggon, and unbeknown to
Quickfingers and GrAMPs, 'Numbers' had got wind of the coming
trouble. It was a month previously, when she had shared what she had
overheard over a late night marshmallow around the camp-fire with
Towerman. The rest of the Watsons, Nightmare Nick and Erica, were
also privy to what had been overheard and it was that night this
group of four had gathered around the embers at their own secret
tryst. They knew about the reuniting with Hell MacPherson,
returning from his triumphant trip to England, in a month's time.
The Towerman would arrange for some of his own friends to meet up
with Hell, a couple of days before their own waggon rolled into town.
But that was then and now was now, and in the main street Venter
scanned the assembled throng, looking down from his vantage point
atop the driver's seat of the waggon, Venter was looking for the man
who signed up all the big deals around town. Being a Cattle town, he
had to look no further than the agent of the local Stock Exchange.
The Stock Exchange agent saw himself as a strong and fair minded man.
Venter now sighted this same man, but the view through Quickfinger's
eyes was an image of a willowy pathetic figure.
"He won't give me any trouble", Venter thought to himself.
Quickfingers Venter called out to the Stock Exchange Man:
"Stockman, I've got some papers for you to sign off." But the next
moment Quickfingers felt a metal barrel being pressed into his side,
from Nightmare Nick!
"Not so fast", quipped Nick. "We know all about your little plan."
Stunned, Quickfingers re-evaluated his situation. He glanced into
the back of the waggon through the split in the canvas and there was
GrAMPs struggling, but firmly bound and gagged. His mind raced back
like a movie in reverse, back to the night when he and GrAMPs had
hatched their plan and that prairie dog that had brushed the side of
his tent just as the deal with GrAMPs was sealed. It was at that
moment when Venter realized it couldn't have been a prairie dog!
"Numbers!" he exclaimed. "And I thought I could count on her!"
But there was no panic in the heart of Quickfingers in
his moment of surprise. Venter knew that even as he and Nick sat
curiously coupled high up on the driving seat of the waggon, a rifle
barrel would be being skillfully aimed from the second floor window
of the depository building behind them, right at the neck of
Nightmare Nick! On the other end of that rifle would be 'Hell
MacPherson', voted by the 'Mid West Photographers Guild' as 'the
finest shot in the West'.
But no shot rang out, and so it was the presence of the Towerman, who
had now got out of the waggon, that instead got Venter's attention.
"The game is over Quickfingers", Towerman bellowed out, revolver in
his hand". "You can get down off your high horse now." Towerman
was visibly furious at Quickfingers attempt not only to edge him out
of the business at less than it's true value, but to do so without
As Venter got down from the waggon, hands in the air, Towerman spun
his gun on his forefinger and gesticulated towards a wooden casket on
the undertakers porch, two buildings down the street.
"You won't be getting any help from Hell, either", he added
triumphantly. "MacPherson isn't so tough any more", shouted the
Towerman, as he cracked a wicked schoolboy smile.
"Hell MacPherson is the body."
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